I can hear it now. One student defiantly raises a hand as I introduce our Latin vocabulary. Before I can even begin explaining the benefits, the student asks, “Why are we learning about this in English class?” Next time you have a student asking why they need to study roots and vocabulary from Greek and Latin, have this list on hand. 1. Greek and Latin are foundational You will be hard-pressed to find vocabulary without influence from Greek or Latin. The truth is, these “ancient” languages heavily influence our modern languages (particularly the Romantic ones). In fact, students who hope to learn other languages, especially Romantic ones, would do well to focus on building vocabulary in English rooted in Latin. Romance languages include French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish, and Latin influences about 80% of the vocabulary in all of these languages. That’s 800 million people whose language is built on Latin alone. 2. Greek and Latin are building blocks English is not consid...
Now more than ever, it is essential that students understand the importance of digital citizenship. It’s part of being career-ready. It’s part of utilizing tools like the internet effectively for education. And it’s part of understanding the boundaries of recreational use. What is digital citizenship ? Being a good digital citizen means understanding the responsibilities associated with technology, particularly the internet, but also how it all applies to computers and devices in general. What does it cover ? I think our first thought is cyber safety. But digital citizenship is so much more than that. It’s also how students use the internet to find help for school. It’s how they interact when searching for a job or emailing professionally. It’s what they post to social media. It’s knowing when it is appropriate to use technology (digital wellness). And it’s knowing how to show empathy when behaving online.  Why is it important? We are absolutely in a world where access to technology is...
Knowing how to research is an important skill for our students, but it can seem overwhelming and tedious when students first see a research assignment. When it comes to teaching students how to research and how to write a research paper, it is definitely a process. Teaching research paper writing takes time. Check out some of my favorite tips for teaching research in secondary ELA.  1. Teach well-thought-out research questions. This is one of the first skills to focus on because it sets the tone for the whole project. Students either need to be given the research questions, or they should have some sort of teacher-check to make sure they are keeping to the topic. Questions that are too broad will leave them sifting through too much information, and questions that are too narrow will make it hard for them to find sources and do their research. You can assist students by walking them through a short process of evaluating their topic and completing some preliminary research.  2. Teach the...
  It’s not the most popular activity in my classroom, but I believe teaching close reading is a vital skill for my students to feel comfortable and confident in their ability to closely read, understand, and analyze a text. If you’re looking to bring your students to the next level in reading comprehension and analysis, read on for tips and tricks. What is close reading? First, it’s important to know that close reading is not a summary of the main points and it’s not a personal response. It’s actually more in-depth than that. When you close read, you should be focused on analysis and interpretation. Students should pick apart the work. This is the time to uncover layers, make inferences, and look for specific textual evidence. It’s more than a reader response. It is understanding what the author is doing. Why were these words chosen? Why described in this way? Why is this interesting (or not)? Notice that, while it is important that students acknowledge the need for tapping into prio...
Shakespeare has been gone for 400 years and yet we still insist on keeping him in our classroom. Mention Shakespeare, and I can guarantee teens immediately put up a front. Breaking through that initial abrasiveness can sometimes become a hurdle - but pointing out Shakespeare’s relevancy is a great start to a study. Below are some quick thoughts you might consider sharing with students, as well as several resources you can use while teaching Shakespeare. Shakespeare influenced our language. You can find so many references in our English language directly from Shakespeare’s work. If your students have ever been tongue-tied or hoodwinked, they’re quoting Shakespeare. There is a definitive record of Shakespeare being identified as the sole user or the first user of many common words and phrases. Your students might enjoy focusing on phrases they do recognize instead of worrying about what seems confusing. Shakespeare's themes are timeless. If you cut the language that feels outdated to...
It’s the not-so-favorite time of year - state testing. And while students may agonize and teachers may groan at the thought of another year of standardized testing in the midst of whatever this new normal is, it’s up to us to prepare our students the best we can. Here are six ideas to help you prep for the test prep season. 1. Get organized This applies to you as well as your students. Think about your game plan. What are you going to accomplish? “Prep for state testing” is too broad a statement. Think about specific tasks, specific knowledge your students need. Think about how you’ll organize your students and how much time you will need. Don’t add more stress to the situation by going in at the last minute with packets you found on the internet but didn’t have time to vet. Be methodical in what you plan. If you’ve waited until the final hour, focus on one or two main test prep areas: writing with evidence or focusing on listening skills. 2. Try something fun Students don’t need endl...
When it comes to reading nonfiction, my students tend to get bleary-eyed and hard-of-hearing. It’s like they instantly think of their history textbooks and informational articles and they decide before they even know the topic that they aren’t going to like it. For many students, nonfiction is like the vegetable of literature, but it doesn’t have to be this way. This is why I work hard to make sure I have a variety of activities to engage my students. Read about some of my favorites below. 1. Fact vs Opinion This super easy activity simply involves you presenting the topic of study and having students create a class list of information. Students share what they know (or think) they know about the subject. You can then assign a pre-reading activity separating fact from fiction, or have students revisit the list after reading. 2. Learn to Annotate Annotating is such an important skill because your students learn to engage with the text. It also has shown to improve retention, and helps i...